Admit it. You have your heart set on being a traditionally-published author. Isn’t this the goal for every writer when first starting out? Most writers, at some point during their careers, will seek representation from a literary agent. A select few are even fortunate to sign contracts. An even smaller number will hit the New York Times Bestseller List. It’s important to set high expectations for your writing career as long as you keep an open mind to every opportunity that comes along.
“How many new clients do you take on a year?”
I’ve heard many New York literary agents asked this question. And the answer is always the same. “I receive thousands of queries every month, and I agree to represent only a handful of new authors each year.” Handful is the operative word. Some agents have admitted to taking on only one or two new clients each year. Let’s be honest. The odds aren’t in anyone’s favor no matter how talented the writer or how unique the novel. I, too, sought representation for my first novel, Saving Ben, but I quickly grew tired of sending out letters and waiting for responses that never came. Once you begin your journey as a writer, don’t be afraid to follow the detours.
Nowadays, many traditionally-published authors are either hybrid publishing (click here for an explanation on hybrid publishing) or publishing themselves. Why? Because it’s so darn easy and inexpensive to self-publish an e-book. On the flip side, some, although not as many, successful self-published authors have signed contracts with literary agents to publish with one of the Big Six. If you are determined to traditionally publish but tired of querying literary agents, build a name for yourself online and let the literary agents come searching for you. How do you do that? 1) Write a great book. 2) Hire the best editor you can afford. 3) Have a professional design your cover. 4) Make smart decisions about advertising. 5) Brand yourself on social media.
Feeling overwhelm? Don’t be. Take it one step at a time. There are many ways to travel to your destination. You have to pick the one that works best for you.
Publishing a novel is a process. As you work your way through the process, if you keep your eyes and ears open, opportunities will present themselves to you. I highly recommend you seek guidance from the professionals. Subscribe to a magazine like Writer’s Digest and read it cover to cover every month. Listen to podcasts and attend webinars. (I’ll be posting a list of some of my favorites in the weeks to come.) The publishing path you choose depends on your ultimate goals for your writing career. Do you dream about hitting the bestseller lists? Are you more interested in winning writing awards? Do you simply want someone to read your work? (This was my initial intent when I published my first novel.) Defining your goals early will help you make choices down the road. Your goals will change over time as some avenues reach dead ends and other opportunities become available. When this happens, you’’ll reassess your career and set new goals. Regardless of what path you choose, make sure you have a plan.